BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Nick Foles climbed the steps to the little conference-room stage Monday morning to officially accept from the commissioner of the NFL the full-size silver football presented annually to the Most Valuable Player from the previous evening's Super Bowl.
The morning-after ceremony and press conference have been on the league's calendar for a long time, and the attendance of Roger Goodell was also scheduled well in advance, but having Foles as the guest of honor couldn't really have been predicted by anyone, probably including Foles himself.
There have been other stand-ins who succeeded in big games, other bit players who were suddenly cast into leading roles and knocked it dead. But even in that light, Foles is unique. It could easily be that the football handed to him by Goodell on Monday marks the last time anyone ever gives Foles the ball. And, more unusual yet, he might be fine with that.
"I'm not really worried about my future right now. There will be a time and place to handle all that. I'm grateful to be a part of the Philadelphia Eagles. I'm staying in the moment," Foles said. "I just enjoy being here. It's such a great team. I'm excited for Carson Wentz coming back healthy. I get to work with him every day. The dude's a stud, and I'm just living in the moment. Not thinking ahead."
That's just as well, because while a lot changed for Foles because of his performance against the Patriots, his position with the Eagles did not. He was the backup quarterback before Wentz tore his knee ligaments, and he will be the backup quarterback when Wentz returns.
It's amusing to speculate how much it would take for another team to acquire Foles, who is under contract for next season with the Eagles. I'm sure Howie Roseman will get offers. But every general manager in the league had a free chance to go after Foles when he was looking around for a starter's job, and none thought enough of him to take that chance.
What would be a reasonable trade offer now? Would the Eagles move Foles for a third-round draft pick? A second-round pick? A first?
If he is so inclined, Foles can walk away into unrestricted free agency after the 2018 season. He will be 30 years old, neither young nor old by football standards. Assuming Wentz does return and play through the season without incident, Foles will have done nothing to polish or tarnish his resume, the most recent line of which will still read, "MVP, Super Bowl." Some team will pay him then and give him a chance.
The Eagles, if they are smart, should do the former, even if they would prefer never having to do the latter.
Forget trading Foles now. That's foolish, regardless of the offer. Wentz isn't guaranteed to be back for the start of next season and, beyond that, he's definitely not guaranteed to remain healthy. His aggressive, reckless style is a large part of what makes him great, and it will help make him a true franchise quarterback if he can keep from being broken. That's the question.
Obviously, Foles is a handy guy to have if a season needs saving. He is fully programmable and predictable in a way Wentz will never be, and, despite a career history of going hot and cold, Foles picked a very good time to be hot this time around.
"Nick has been the same guy that I remember going back to when we drafted him. He does not change," coach Doug Pederson said. "The things he did back then [are] the things he does today. He's just a better quarterback today. He's a smarter quarterback today. He's a veteran quarterback today."
But he is still Nick Foles and he remembers being set free once before, traded away to what became a disaster with the Rams, and then to a holding pattern with the Chiefs. He came back to take on the role of a mentor, but his football fate held an unexpected turn, as unexpected as climbing the stage to shake the commissioner's hand can be.
I believe Foles when he says he's happy to be in Philadelphia, and I believe the organization is going to give him a contract extension that hands him a payback for this season even if it never again hands him a football.
The caged bird, it was written, does not sing from joy, but Nick Foles will be an exception. Home takes different forms, and even if the sideline becomes a row of bars keeping him from the field, he will always have the memory of one incredible night in flight. Not to mention the silver football.